Posts Tagged ‘Nichols Garden Nursery’

Elephant Garlic in the Semi-permaculture Garden

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Last fall was the first time that I ever planted elephant garlic. This enormous bulbing  garlicky-tasting leek came from Nichols Garden Nursery. I planted in early fall and scattered lettuce seed over the bed to use the floor space in the spring. The garlic made fall top growth, but I left it to grow.

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This spring I had a bed full of thick, sturdy, radiantly healthy green garlic, or rather green leeks in this case. I pulled some to use as green garlic, and was delighted by the warm, mildly garlicky flavor when saut√©ed in butter or olive oil with a little salt. I like all green garlic, but this one was my favorite. I didn’t let myself eat much of it, though, because I had my eye on a good bulb harvest. The bloomscapes care along in early May, and they make a nice subsidiary harvest if picked right away. Cooked at this stage, they are crisp, oniony, and sweet. Leave them more than 2-3 days after first appearance and they develop adamantine, unchewable fibers in the outer layer. Then come the flowers, and the few that I let bloom were very pretty. I forgot to take pictures so here are some borrowed shots:

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I have verified to my own satisfaction that if they are allowed to bloom the bulbs will be much smaller, so keep that in mind. The individual flowers make a tasty crunchy garnish, and are adored by bees, so they help carry pollinators through the hottest part of our summer, which is much appreciated.

Finally the tops started to yellow and bulb harvest began. Digging them is great fun; the enormous bulbs give you a sense of buried treasure. One must be quite a gardener, one feels, to produce a plant like that. So much of the time gardening is humbling that a little ego-aggrandizement does not come amiss.

The kitchen use is another matter. After a few tries, I can’t take to elephant garlic cloves either raw or cooked. The flavor is weakly garlicky with a bitter edge whether raw or cooked and does no dish any good, in my opinion. One online gardener has suggested that I need to hold it for a month or two, until this quality subsides. We’ll see.

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The greens are so good that I’ll continue to grow a lot of it, and next spring I’ll let myself harvest a lot more greens. I plan to divide my elephant garlic patch in two, and try two different growing methods. In one half, I’ll continue to grow it in the standard garlic fashion, digging and dividing and replanting each fall, and in the other half I’ll just let it perennialize and pull green garlic at will and see what happens. Of course I’ll be reporting back.

 

Another Great Green


One of my new trials this year was the Asian hybrid green Misome. I got my seed from Nichols Garden Nursery, one of my favorite sources for unusual and useful seeds. It’s a hybrid of tat soi, a vegetable that I love but can only grow in the fall. I planted Misome in earliest spring and it grew beautifully, producing deep green savoyed leaves that shone in the sun like the deepest jade. It had no insect or disease problems. Like many mustards, the only secret is to plant it early enough. The flavor was mild and ever so slightly mustardy. I used the youngest leaves in salads and the older ones stir-fried. It held for a surprising time in the garden, considering our early and very hot and windy spring, and when it bolted a few weeks ago, I pulled up the plants and fed them to my goat Magnolia, who was ecstatic over them. I like to believe that the dark green color indicates a high level of beta-carotenes, but I have no data to prove that. I do know from experience that it’s delicious. I’ll be planting another crop in early fall. Keep it in mind for next spring, or order some seed now while you’re thinking about it.

One of many ways to stir-fry greens:
This is too simple to be written as a recipe. Think of it as a basic technique that works for a wide variety of greens. Peel and chop a clove of garlic, a 1/2″ piece of ginger, and a 1″ piece of turmeric. Have ready a tablespoon of Thai fish sauce, a tablespoon of palm sugar or agave nectar (a surprisingly good substitute) and half a cup or so of coconut milk (not the low-fat kind). Thoroughly wash a pound of misome leaves, whirl them dry, and cut them across in 1/2″ slices. Heat a large wok very hot, put in about 2 tablespoons of canola oil, and dump in the chopped garlic, ginger, and turmeric and fry, stirring constantly, for a minute or until the fragrance comes up, which may be less than a minute. Be careful not to burn them. Now put in the strips of misome, fry a few minutes while turning regularly, and then add the fish sauce and coconut milk. Continue to stir-fry over very high heat until the coconut milk thickens, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, and serve immediately. This is surprisingly satisfying by itself with jasmine rice for lunch. If you can’t find fresh turmeric, leave it out. Do not under any circumstances use musty dried turmeric instead.
Dishes like this will give you a glow of virtue and good health that goes on for hours. Perhaps it’s a true virtue of the greens, or maybe it’s just the glow of achievement that comes of eating what you grew. Either way, it feels good.